The Initial Decision

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The Initial Decision by a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) judge is a ruling made by a presiding administrative law judge that addresses a complaint or appeal filed by a federal employee or applicant for federal employment. The MSPB is an independent agency that serves as a neutral third party in disputes between federal employees and their employers in the area of federal employment law.  It is important to note that the jurisdiction of the MSPB is not broad or all encompassing.  The MSPB must have statutory or regulatory jurisdiction over the nature of your complaint or appeal.  

An initial decision by the MSPB can address a wide range of issues, including complaints of discrimination, retaliation, and other forms of misconduct by federal agencies or employees. The MSPB also hears appeals of certain, but not all,  personnel actions, (typically) such as adverse actions, removals, and reductions in grade or pay. They are also the sole adjudicating body for retirement appeals.

When an employee or applicant files a complaint or appeal with the MSPB, the case is assigned to an administrative law judge who conducts a hearing following development of evidentiary discovery and a number of preheating practices. Following the hearing, the judge issues the Initial Decision (ID), which includes findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommended order. The recommended order may include relief such as reinstatement, back pay, or other remedies. HOWEVER, it is important to note that the initial decision is not the final word in the case. After the initial decision is issued, both the employee and the agency have the right to file a Petition for Review (PFR) before the full Board of the MSPB for review of the Initial Decision. The full MSPB will then review the case and issue a final decision, which is binding on both parties. Absent a filing of an appeal concerning the Initial Decision, the decision becomes final in thirty-calendars when the the date of the Order.

In summary, an initial decision by the MSPB is best described as an interim ruling made by an administrative law judge that addresses a complaint or appeal filed by a federal employee or applicant for federal employment. It can address a wide range of issues, and the ruling is not final, both parties have the right to petition the full MSPB for review of the decision.


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